Campaigners call on WTO to deal with 'real issues'

 CAFOD yesterday accused rich countries of side-stepping the real issues of world trade, saying it is time they stepped up to the mark if the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks are to be a true development round. On the opening day of the sixth WTO Ministerial meeting, a large group of developing countries said their core concern - how to protect their small-scale poor farmers - remained on the margins of trade talks as rich countries dominated discussions with their own market access interests. At the same time, EU trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson was pushing for a "development package" of aid for trade to be the first item on the agenda. CAFOD Analyst Matt Griffith said: "Mandelson's package of aid for trade doesn't address the real crunch points that poorer countries are demanding at he WTO. Our fear is that the meat of negotiations will be sidelined as rich countries nibble on over publicised development hors d'oeuvres." The agency is supporting the Special Products proposal of a group of 45 developing countries, known as the G33. They are asking that they be allowed to protect certain crops on which millions of people rely for food and a living, from cheap, often subsidised imports. Indonesian trade minister Dr Mari Pangestu, speaking today for the G33, said: "We represent more than half of the world's population and the majority of the world's small and vulnerable farmers across the continents. If this group is not the voice of development I don't know what is." Dr Pangestu warned that: "Developing countries' development needs are continuously being undermined and are at risk of being marginalized in current agriculture negotiations." He said: "We believe the Special Products proposal is the most practical 'development package' on the table at the WTO and that without such protection developing countries face deepening rural poverty. Matt Griffith said: "Protecting the world's most vulnerable people should be at the centre of any development round worth the name. How market access talks impact on developing countries is the real issue, not long promised aid add-ons. If the WTO wants to claim it is serving development, then it must deliver a rebalancing of agricultural trade rules." CAFOD together with all the other aid agencies, believes that agriculture should and can provide the first rung on the development ladder. Farming is the lifeblood of the economies and livelihoods of developing countries with up to 80 per cent of people in the developing world making their living from farming. However, campaigners argue that through unjust trade rules rich countries are threatening to end people's means of survival, while also ruining any chance a country has of trading its way out of poverty.

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